Expository Preaching Takes the Text on its Own Terms

It Models How One Should Take the Text and Study It On Its Own Terms

Take the root word of expository:  expose.  Our desire is to take the text on its own terms.  Recently, someone commented that too many preachers have messages in search of a text. Praise God that he gives messages — just make sure those messages do justice to the text rather than simply doing justice to one’s pet topics. 

The New Testament makes it easy on the preacher to find the theme.  In fact, the Apostle Paul expertly introduces and unpacks theme upon theme in his epistles, leaving no doubt as to the direction.  One man on the pastor search committee which called me noted that the majority of applicates for the pastor preached from the Sermon on the Mount (myself included).  Why?  For me, as a young preacher, the theme was crystal clear.  One has to bring a lot of personal baggage to miss the themes in these passages.

Yet, there are other literary forms, aren’t there?  The historical narratives, the wisdom literature, the prophets — many times, they fail to contain nice, compact layout.  It takes work and prayer and study and prayer and wisdom … and prayer.  While we will deal with literary forms in Part 10, we must realize that the Bible consists of works in different genres such as history, narrative, poetry, prophetic, and apocalyptic language.  You cannot read history the same way you would poetry — history is more concrete while poetry often uses imagery to convey a concrete principle.  And so forth.  An understanding of the literary forms is crucial when taking the Scriptures on its own terms.

How Do We Take the Scriptures On Their Own Terms?

First, understand that this Book is an inspired Book.  God wrote it.  Yes, 66 books from 40 authors comprise this library known as the Holy Scriptures, but it has one author who inspired one book to show one strain of his redemptive work grounding in history.  The Bible is about how God progressively unfolds his plan to his people for his purpose and glory.  While as preachers and pastors we will deal with critics of the doctrine of inspiration who embrace worldviews such as liberalism, higher criticism, to the critics found in the emergent church who deny the certainty of knowledge in general and the Scriptures specifically — we hold to 2 Timothy 3:16 which says that “All Scripture is breathed out by God.”  The doctrine of inspiration is not a free pass to forsake studying these issues — but it provides the groundwork and the foundation to say, “Yes, God inspired this — and what I don’t understand, I know God gave it and will provide other Scriptures that I do understand to shed light on the ones I do not.”

Secondly, realize that the Scriptures are given by God as the sole mode of revealing himself.  A.W. Pink rightly notes:

God has given us a clear revelation of Himself in creation, in the constitution of man (physical, mental, and moral), in His government of this world (as evinced in the annals of history), in the advent to this earth of His incarnate Son, and in the Holy Scriptures.[source]

Once the doctrine of revelation (God revealing himself in the Scriptures) and inspiration (God breathed out the Scriptures) are undermined, liberalism and a general mistrust on the authority of the Scriptures result. It becomes a book of inspirational thoughts or simply a book to be critiqued and studied — but not one to be obeyed.

Steps Taken By the Expository Preacher Regarding the Text’s Seriousness

(1) Pray that the Holy Spirit opens your heart and mind to not only the authority and inspiration of His Word, but also to the sins in your heart which may hinder communion with Him. The Scriptures are infallible, but we are not. Pray that God would lead you toward Christlikeness — which is what he predestined us to in Christ (Romans 8:29).

(2) Pour over the Scriptures first. While commentaries are quite helpful (some are, I should say), one must approach the Scriptures first. One professor told the story of how he’d go as a teenager and raid his dad’s office when his dad served as a pastor. As he walked out of his dad’s office with an arm-full of books, his dad noted, “You know, son, the Bible is a pretty good book, too!” The Spirit gives us the Scriptures to help us interpret the Scriptures as well. Go there first.

(3) Go to the original languages. If you know Greek and Hebrew, use it. Get back to the originals. If you don’t, find a good computer program like BibleWorks or a Strong’s concordance for a greater understanding. While we may understand sufficiently in the English, all English translations are just that — translations.

(4) Go to the commentaries which hold to the Bible as the Word of God. Too many scholars write commentaries to debate whether what the Bible says is actually so. They embrace various critical methods which question the truthfulness of the Scriptures. Pastors don’t have time to engage in such nonsense. Go to the old commentaries like Calvin and Spurgeon and Luther who trust the Scriptures. Find more recent commentators like R. Kent Hughes, J.M. Boice, Phil Ryken, and Derek Kidner. Monergism.com also has a ton of links to sites containing solid resources to Bible-believing preachers and teachers.

(5) Read biographies of faithful expository preachers. Iain Murray’s biography on Martyn Lloyd-Jones, George Marsden’s biography on Jonathan Edwards, among others show you how the study and love of Scripture was not simply a professional endeavor, but a life-calling. These biographies will motivate preachers to the blessed pursuit of biblical study. Even sketches found at various places such as here and here are helpful.

(6) Get under good expositional preaching at a local church. Good expositional preachers will model how to study and how to take the text on its own terms. But notice I said “at a local church.” Academic institutions may be helpful, but preaching divorced from the local church context lacks true authenticity in that you are preaching to the untrained layperson. Study coupled with putting the fruit of that study on the ‘bottom shelf,’ if you will shows the relevance of expository preaching in general and study in particular in the life of the average Christian.

Don’t Bypass “Real Needs” for “Felt Needs” When Preaching

Joe Needy comes to Capital City Church with a life full of issues he dealt with on a daily basis. After exploring a number of other therapeutic options and remedies, he decides to come and try Capital City. He comes in wanting help with a number of issues, such as:

  • Finances. “I am in financial trouble. My credit card debts are through the roof, my kids are teenagers who will be going to college soon, my retirement account may be too low — plus we may need a bigger house. Can the Bible help me pull my finances together?”
  • Marriage: “My wife and I have a good marriage. We take care of the children’s needs, but we need a stronger marriage. We’ve been arguing a lot lately over… you guessed it … finances. I need help with my marriage. Can this church help me with my marriage?”
  • Meaning and purpose: “Where is my life going? That question has been nagging me for months now. I have a wife, two great kids, a house, a decent job — but for what? Can the Bible help me understand what it all means?”

Joe Needy has listed off a number of ‘felt needs’ he has. He feels the pinch of his finances. He feels the need to have a good marriage so their home can be a home of peace. He feels that his life may be going down a dead end street. Yet we are all fallen creatures, tainted by sin and self. What Joe may feel are his needs (and he may feel he will know what the solution is when he sees and hears it) may not be exactly what his true needs are.

Expository preaching aims to make the theme of the passage presented and make it the theme of the sermon. Impository preaching is preaching which seeks to take a theme for the sermon and impose it on the text. Here is where many preachers and congregations get in trouble.

Say I knew that the majority of my people would appreciate a sermon on how to handle your finances. They would come saying, “OK, this guy is going to help me blossom my portfolio, get out of debt, and make me financially stable.” Yet, as he is going through the Scriptures verse-by-verse, a principle arises addressing one’s greed. While Joe Needy may have his list of needs, God is speaking to the fact that greed and idolatry may be the problem with his finances. God may be speaking to the issue of how Joe may be “robbing” God with his neglect of the giving of “tithes and offerings” (Malachi 3:6-10).

Same with the marriage: you may wonder why your marriage may not be as you desire. Yet, the pastor preaches on Ephesians 5:3 about running away from sexual immorality in all its forms in word, thought, and action. You may not have connected the fact that watching Sex and the CityDesperate Housewives or Friends may be subtly warping your view of relationships with their brazen activity. Thus, your marriage would improve if you began preaching the Gospel to yourself in every area of life and remove yourself from certain situations that plant disobedient and lustful seeds in your mind and heart.

Again, this is taking us from what we deem ‘felt needs’ to ‘real needs’ which expository preaching can expose. Preachers are not simply there to expose the meaning of the text, but through the Spirit and his use of preaching the Word expose the sin that resides in the heart of man.

Preaching with Fatigue–What Should One Do?

One weekend, I had returned from Virginia visiting with family over Thanksgiving, driving 500+ and arriving in town at 10:00 p.m. Saturday night.  I was struggling with ‘car-lag’ and it spilled over into Sunday morning in a big way.  I had difficulty in keeping my thoughts in line, my throat was dry and tired, and all my body wanted to do was sleep and regain some energy. 

This will happen. Missions trips, young children who don’t sleep well at night, troubling matters in your mind and heart–so many things can affect sleep and rest.

While I am not an expert on this matter, pastors can take these steps to help them maintain clarity and focus when they communicate. 

  1. Take some long, deep breaths before you get up to speak.  When your tired, the breathing becomes more shallow, and this means less oxygen to every part of your body—especially your brain.  While your physical body has a lecture or stand upon which to lean, your mind still needs as much sharpness as possible. 
  2. Maintain a simplicity in your content.  When someone is tired, the possibility of rambling increases greatly.  If fatigue comes in on a Sunday morning, this usually means a long tough week filled with many tasks.  Time for sermon preparation was at a minimum.  For many public speakers, this translates into a longer sermon rather than a shorter one.  Your mind does not have the sharpness to discern what to include and what not to include, so you include it all—even some tangents you may not have seen.  What is important is to keep on task and on track.  Say what you’re going to say, say it, then press on.  Be aware of your situation!
  3. If you lose your place, get to the gospel!  It’s easy to lose your place when fatigue grips you.  If you preach from an outline or without notes, but you lose your train of thought or the flow of the sermon, get to the cross and empty tomb—get to the gospel!  So many times, God uses the times when we lose our train of thought to get onto His—never a bad thing!
  4. Maintain a steadiness of pace in your delivery.  Fatigue not only doesn’t shorten a sermon (it often lengthens it), fatigue also quickens the pace of the delivery.  Your body is tired, your mind is tired, therefore your restraint is lowered as well.  The ups and downs, the speaking as well as the well-timed silences—all of those effects are lessened due to fatigue.  You risk just backing up the dump truck of information. 
  5. Put a bow on that sermon—a nice, tight bow.  It’s just as important to know not only how to start, you need to know how to finish.  Start promptly, end promptly.  It’s not just about the clock, it’s about the momentum of the sermon coming to a close when the congregation senses the sermon is done.  Sadly, many congregants understand when a sermon is done before the preacher does.  This increases with the pastor’s fatigue. 
  6. God is in control, so don’t sweat it and sleep well.  God’s Word will not return empty, but will accomplish all it seeks to accomplish (Isaiah 55:11-12)—fatigue or not!  So even if your personal delivery/presentation was not to your liking, your Spirit-fueled passion in preaching the Spirit-inspired Word will be honored by God.  Sleep well—get some rest.  If the Lord permits, you will have another chance very soon to bring it again!

What are some helpful tips for you?

Awake, O Sleeper: What Should Preachers Do With Sleepers in their Congregation?

Dear preachers of the gospel, take note: people will fall asleep at times during your sermon. 

There, now don’t you feel better?

But for many, even if this truth sinks in to one’s spirit, it still brings a number of different emotions to the preacher:  discouragement, offense, anger, revenge!  It’s easy, especially for the younger preacher, to think there is something wrong with his preaching (it may be) or that his listeners are turning pagan (they may be).  But there are some other factors!

Why do your listeners fall asleep or fight sleep?

  1. You could be boring.  Don’t be boring!  The Word is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and God uses it to accomplish all He desires (Isaiah 55:11-12). 
  2. They may be tired from working third shift!  So if this is the case, praise God they are at church!  And those padded pews can be awfully cozy. 
  3. They may be on medication:  I had one man apologize to me for falling asleep because of a new medication he’s on.  Don’t jump to conclusions.
  4. Your worship space may be too warm.  It should be on the cooler side at the beginning, allowing for those coming into the sanctuary to warm it up significantly, especially if you have a lot of singing. 
  5. You may be preaching over their heads or under their feet.  Both will lose people.  If you preach too basic, you’ve insulted them.  They will drift off, and possibly think, “I can sleep in my own bed more comfortably” or “I need to find a pastor and a church that won’t insult me with that pap.”  If you preach as if you are teaching a seminary classroom, they will feel discouraged (“If I were a better Christian, I’d understand this.  I’m a failure.”  That’s not good!) or roll their eyes at you (“See?  The preacher is showing off all he knows.”  That’s not good.)  Know your people.  Shepherds many times walk with their flock, not way ahead or behind. 

Why Just Any Book Won’t Do: Why We Preach from the Bible

God’s plan for pure churches comes from God’s written, holy, and inscripturated Word. This collection of books we have in this Bible is a library of truth. Sixty-six books, written over a span of approximately 1,500 years by forty different authors, comprise what we call the Bible, the Holy Bible, the Scriptures, and appropriately the Word of God. A.W. Pink was right when he began one of his books, “Christianity is the religion of a Book. Christianity is based upon the impregnable rock of Holy Scripture. The starting point of all doctrinal discussion must be the Bible. Upon the foundation of the Divine inspiration of the Bible stands or falls the entire edifice of Christian truth.”[i]

However, some question whether these 66 books are truly authoritative. Why those books? Other books attributed to some of Jesus’ disciples were floating around. In Trinidad, I became acquainted with some Rastafarians. I read about them in preparation for helping a church in Trinidad plant a church, and noticed they held to some Christian roots. Yet, in reading Dennis Forsythe’s authoritative work on Rastafarianism, quotes a number of “Christian” scholars who claim that Christ was a mystic. [ii] Christ sought to reveal the spiritual mysteries of knowledge to just a select few—tipping his hand to a clear Gnostic tradition![iii]

Yet, God sought to reveal His truth to all who would hear and hear clearly, not through self-awareness as a starting point, but with God as a starting point making His Word clear to all who believe. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

11For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. (1 Cor 2:11-13)

B.B. Warfield noted:

Any book or body of books which were given to the Church by the apostles as law must always remain of divine authority in the Church. That the apostles thus gave the Church the whole Old Testament, which they had themselves received from their fathers as God’s word written, admits of no doubt, and is not doubted. That they gradually added to this body of old law an additional body of new law is equally patent. In part this is determined directly by their own extant testimony.[iv]

In Titus 1:2, we see an interesting phrase that Paul used in his opening to Titus: “. . . in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began. . .” The emphasized portion is translated from the word (apsuedes) which means, “free from falsehood, without lie.” Therefore, not only does God choose not to lie, he cannot lie. [v] Given that this is God’s nature, we trust that what He says from that nature will be truthful in every part. Paul sought to give Titus both general instructions, but also instruction that addressed issues in his specific context.

In his letter to Timothy, Paul wrote, “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” The word ‘breathed out’ is qeo,pneustoj(theopneustos)—God inspired/breathed out His Word. And as God stands, so does His Word stand. The word for this principal is ‘infallible,” which, as the root implies, means that the Word cannot fall. This truth fueled the Reformation, whose fire was lit by Martin Luther’s hymn A Mighty Fortress is our God. Take note of the last stanza:

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth;
The Spirit and the gifts are ours through Him Who with us sideth:
Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;
The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still,
His kingdom is forever.[vi]

At times, this truth is put to severe scrutiny. French atheist Voltaire (1694-1778) boasted, “One hundred years from my day there will not be a Bible in the earth except one that is looked upon by an antiquarian curiosity seeker.” Yet, not twenty years after his death, the Geneva Bible Society bought his house for printing the Bible, and later became the headquarters for the British and Foreign Bible Societies, which stored and distributed Bibles throughout Europe.[vii] Truly the Psalmist was correct when he wrote, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Psalm 119:89).

We must not forget Emperor Diocletian who in A.D. 300 ordered an edict seeking the removal of all Christians from every government position, and ordered the Christians’ houses of worship and their Bibles burned. Some Christians refused to turn over their copy of the Scriptures and were thus tortured and condemned to death.[viii] He declared extincto nomene Christianorum (Latin for “the name of Christians will be extinguished”). Yet, in A.D. 313, Emperor Constantine replaced the pagan symbols with the symbol of the cross, and as a result the Empire gave protected status to Christians. Even with the various viewpoints as to whether this ultimately helped or hurt Christianity, the point is clear: God would not permit his Word to be extinguished!

Paul also reminded Titus of God’s truthfulness for a very practical reason. In his specific ministry context, he struggled with false teachers infecting the church. In Titus 1:10-14, Paul warned Titus of the nature of the deceivers:

10For there are many who are insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party. 11They must be silenced, since they are upsetting whole families by teaching for shameful gain what they ought not to teach. 12 One of the Cretans, a prophet of their own, said, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.” 13This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, 14 not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth.

We must see that his ministry context was on the isle of Crete, the very place whose inhabitant were described by one of their own prophets as “liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons” (v. 12). Paul described those coming into the church as “insubordinate, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision party” (v. 10). Titus needed to understand the culture to whom he ministered, but he also needed to recognize how diametrically opposite God is to the unbelievers on Crete. Yes, they may lie, but God “never lies.” He His holy—deception is not in his nature. Christians can trust every word He breathes out!


[i]Arthur W. Pink, The Divine Inspiration of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1976), 5.

[ii]See Dennis Forsythe, Rastafari: Healing of the Nations (New York: One Drop Books, 1999), 11-43.

[iii]For more information on Gnosticism, see Matt Slick, Gnosticism, accessed 7 Jan 2010, available at http://www.carm.org/gnosticism [on-line]; Internet. Here is a small definition: “The word “gnosticism” comes from the Greek word “gnosis” which means “knowledge.”  There were many groups that were Gnostic and it isn’t possible to easily describe the nuances of each variant of Gnostic doctrines.  However, generally speaking, Gnosticism taught that salvation is achieved through special knowledge (gnosis).  This knowledge usually dealt with the individual’s relationship to the transcendent Being.” Salvation starts with a personal self-knowledge, differing this from orthodox Christianity which stays that salvation begins with the Lord (Jonah 2:9; Eph 2:8-10) and that man does not have the equipment due to the fall to pursue God on their own (Romans 3:10-12).

[iv]B.B. Warfield, The Authority & Inspiration of the Scriptures, ed. Shane Rosenthal. Accessed on 6 January 2010; available at http://homepage.mac.com/shanerosenthal/reformationink/bbwauthority.htm [on-line]; Internet.

[v]The Scripture reference is from the ESV as it is throughout, but it is the opinion of the author that this translation should be stronger. Other translations such as the KJV and the NAS translate this as “God who cannot lie.” While the end result is the same (God is and remains full of truth), the ESV’s translation implies that God never lies, but could if he wanted to. An example would be, “John never goes into the dirty movies.” Yet, that is a far cry from, “John cannot go into the movies.” One is about choice, the other deals with their moral and ethical nature. According to the Greek, not only did God choose not to lie, it is a moral impossibility for him.

[vi]Mar­tin Lut­her, A Mighty Fortress is our God, 1529; trans­lat­ed from Ger­man to Eng­lish by Fred­er­ic H. Hedge, 1853.

[vii]Michael C. Bere, Bible Doctrines for Today, ed. B. Horton(Pensacola, FL: A Beka, 1996), 23.

[viii]Justo Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity: The Early Church to the Present Day (Peabody, MA: Prince Press, 2001), 104.

Why Pastors (and All Christians) Should Be Engaged in Apologetics

Before we ask the ‘why,’ we must understand the ‘what’ and ‘to whom’ of apologetics. What is it? John Frame defines Christian apologetics as that which “seeks to serve God and the church by helping believers to carry out the mandate of 1 Peter 3:15-16. We may define it as the discipline that teaches Christians how to give a reason for their hope.”[1]

The apostle Peter in 1 Peter 3:15-16 says:

15But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear: 16Having a good conscience; that, whereas they speak evil of you, as of evildoers, they may be ashamed that falsely accuse your good conversation in Christ.

Based on this definition, apologetics is seen as an offensive and defensive discipline. As an offensive discipline, the Christian is living a life of one who is set apart to the Lord in this world. Christ has unleashed His people into the world to be “little Christs.” Christians also take a defensive position, making a concentrated and intentional defense of the faith “to every man that asketh you for a reason of the hope that is in you” (3:15). Christians must always be aware that, even though they may not have studied the discipline of apologetics, they are showing the plausibility of Christ and Christianity by their words and actions which radiate what lies in their heart (Matthew 12:33-37).

For Whom is this Study of Apologetics?

Christians wishing to engage in this field must know the audience to which they will engage. Apologetics is for both Christians and non-Christians.

Apologetics is for Christians. “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts” (3:15a). To “sanctify” means to set apart for God’s holy use. Yet, the Scriptures show that Christians are “sojourners and exiles” in this world who are to “abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul” (1 Peter 2:11). Given all the temptations from within (1 Corinthians 10:12-13) and the philosophies and worldviews assaulting Christians from without (Colossians 2:6-15), Christians need strengthening in the hope the have in Christ.

At some point, Satan will come along to plant a seed of doubt in the believer’s mind, having the Christian wonder if the “reason of the hope” they have is truly reasonable.

  • A Buddhist may seem to show how a life of tranquility and meditation will give the Christian the enlightened peace they need to cope with their troublesome situation.
  • A Muslim can appear to demonstrate faithfulness by their prayers and pilgrimages to Mecca a life of devotion and strong conviction, giving tangible evidence of God’s approval to their spiritual lives.
  • A humanist may seem convincing in the midst of a Christian’s harrowing circumstances in which God appears absent.
  • A Darwinist who appears to have “scientific evidence” on his side may seem convincing over and against those who hold to the origin of creation, calling it a myth and a fantasy.

These few examples help clarify the need for Christians to know what the Scripture teaches so as to strengthen the church. Paul warned the Ephesian church to be aware of the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:12), and part of the schemes of the devil is to go after our thinking, our worldview. He aims deceive with philosophies and elementary principles by which he may turn eyes away from the person and work of Christ and the “faith once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). The area of Christian apologetics aims to help Christians understand what it means for the mind to be given over to the Spirit rather than the flesh or the world (Romans 8:5-8).

Apologetics is for unbelievers. God inspired the Scriptures to show clearly who God is, what He has accomplished in redemptive history, and what He aims to accomplish through His people now. While all people see God’s attributes, giving them no excuse in denying the existence and work of a Creator (Romans 1:18-21), through the Bible God has given us a perspicuous account of His nature, His character, His work—all brought to bear in the centerpiece of the Scriptures, the person of Jesus Christ (Matthew 5:17-18).

The Scriptures serve as a witness to an unbelieving world. As the church lives out God’s will out of loving obedience, the world will see this display. As a result, unbelievers will ask Christians for “a reason for the hope that is within” them. Even in this, they are to respond with “meekness and fear.” Does this mean that Christians are to wither and cower in the face of such questions? Not at all! Meekness means strength under control. ‘Fear’ has to do with reverence before God and before those who may disagree with the conclusions that come from Christian belief.

The apostle Peter informs believers that unbelievers may “speak evil of you, as of evildoers” (3:16). Even though Christians serve a Good God who sent His Good Shepherd to deliver and embody the Good News (i.e., the gospel), an unbelieving world sees the cause of Christ as evil and detrimental to the human race. While many reasons are given by various groups, the last verse of the book of Judges encapsulates this succinctly: “And there was no king in Israel, and everyone did what was right in his own eyes” (Judges 21:25).

Unbelievers do not simply disagree with the rules and commands of God, they disagree with the notion that we are destitute of any goodness that would commend men to him. Ephesians 2:8-9 clearly shows how people are saved not by what they do, they are saved by what God has accomplished by the gift of grace through Jesus Christ. Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount by saying, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). Unbelievers may not want to hear of their destitution (even if they are made aware of this “with meekness and fear”), they need to know it but also need to see grace-saved sinners model this with their actions and speech.

The “Why” of Apologetics

After examining the ‘what’ and the ‘to whom’ of apologetics, an examination of the ‘why’ of apologetics must commence. We must examine this because of some who believe that apologetics is unnecessary—and they give pseudo-doctrinal reasons why! Some apologetics skeptics (apolo-skeptics?) have a very high view of the Holy Spirit, with an understanding that the Spirit’s job is to convict and change hearts—something men cannot do. In 1 Corinthians 3:8, “I planted, Apollos watered, but it is God who gives the growth.” Apolo-skeptics rightly assert that no one can change hearts but God, and to work to defend and convince skeptics of Christianity is to take on the Spirit’s role of conversion.

Apologetics advocates would say, “Yes, God causes the growth, but he has given the assignment and the mandate by God to plant and water!” They would remind us that we are to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15). As an apologetics advocate, Bodie Hodge notes, “While witnessing, remember to be kind and patient. After all, we were each enemies of the gospel ourselves at one point—but Jesus Christ was patient with us and performed the ultimate act of kindness on the cross.”[1] Paul exhorted the Colossian church to “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6).

To ultimately answer the ‘why,’ one can look at the ‘great’ words of Jesus: the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. First, apologetics is part of the Great Commission. Matthew 28:16-20 contains the final account in this Gospel in regards to Jesus’ aim for his followers:

16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:16-20).

This account took place soon after Jesus’ resurrection. Given the circus surrounding Jesus’ sentencing and crucifixion, not to mention the brutality of what Jesus endured, many of His followers worshiped him! This was a miracle that made all other miracles pale in comparison! Yet, hanging over verse 17 is this startling phrase: “but some doubted.” Even with Jesus standing before them post-resurrection, some had hearts so hardened that they could not believe He live. Clearly, Jesus intended to show them and all subsequent followers that evangelism and apologetics will go hand-in-hand, even with people who seem to be the closest.

As Jesus began to speak, He did not start with a command, but showed the authority that His Father had bestowed on Him (Matthew 28:18). He then commands that the disciples “go and make disciples”—in other words, the disciples were to reproduce themselves. How?

First, through identification. “. . . baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” This outward sign of baptism demonstrates the inward change of being identified with the Trinity, surrendering their all. To baptize means to immerse. This physical immersion of one’s body into the water is an object lesson of how this individual has been fully immersed into Christ through His death, burial, and resurrection.

Second, through impartation of information. “. . . teaching them . . .” Jesus’ followers have information and content to pass along to others. Jesus showed the disciples that the Christian faith is not merely intuitive but also cognitive. Jude reminded his audience, “Contend earnestly for the faith, once and for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). That article ‘the’ preceding the word ‘faith’ makes clear that the Christian faith is a battery of coherent and perspicuous knowledge.

Third, through the application of the information. “. . . Teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” Disciples of Jesus Christ must help others not just learn this knowledge but also apply what they have learned. Having a faith that does not bear fruit is not a Christian faith (John 15:1-8; James 2:14ff).

Greg Bahnsen shows this connection between evangelism and apologetics:

The very reason why Christians are put in the position of giving a reasoned account of the hope that is in them is that not all men have faith. Because there is a world to be evangelized (men who are unconverted), there is the need for the believer to defend his faith: Evangelism naturally brings one into apologetics. This indicates that apologetics is no mere matter of “intellectual jousting”; it is a serious matter of life and death – eternal life and death. The apologist who fails to take account of the evangelistic nature of his argumentation is both cruel and proud. Cruel because he overlooks the deepest need of his opponent and proud because he is more concerned to demonstrate that he is no academic fool that to show how all glory belongs to the gracious God of all truth. Evangelism reminds us of who we are (sinners saved by grace) and what our opponents need (conversion of heart, not simply modified propositions). I believe, therefore, that the evangelistic nature of apologetics shows us the need to follow a presuppositional defense of the faith. In contrast to this approach stand the many systems of neutral autonomous argumentation.[2]

Second, apologetics is part of the Great Commandment. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest commandment, he replied:

37And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38This is the great and first commandment. 39And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).

Why do we defend the faith? First of all, out of love for God, to whom we have surrendered our all (heart, soul, and mind). In loving God with all we have, we live for Him with all we have, desire others to live for Him by repenting of their sin and trusting in Christ, and we long to make sure their views

We also defend the faith by loving our neighbor as ourselves! Ephesians 4:15 says a marvelous phrase: “… speaking the truth in love.” Christians must strike this balance: we lovingly and respectfully speak the truth. Telling others the truth in a Christ-like manner is the most loving action we can perform. Those listening to us may not see us as loving (see John 15:18ff), and we do know that the gospel of Christ is offensive (1 Corinthians 1:18-21). Yet our attitude should exude the love of Christ that the Holy Spirit pours into the hearts of all believers (Romans 5:5). If someone believes and acts in a way that will end in destruction, we must love that fellow image-bearer as God loves them.

In Stephen Prothero’s book God is Not One, he spends time debunking the notion that many atheists put forth in that “all religions are essentially the same, worshiping the same God in different ways.” He calls this “follow[ing] our fantasies down the rabbit hole of religious unity.”[3] He notes too that world religions do agree in regards to ethics, but not on doctrine, ritual, mythology, experience, or law.[4] Yet, each of these religions seeks to answer four issues which will be helpful in sorting out the high watermarks of the particulars of each worldview presented:

  • The problem
  • The solution to the problem, which also serves as the religious goal;
  • The technique which moves from the problem to the solution
  • The exemplar(s) who chart this path from problem to solution.

In aiding the student, I will also implement a paradigm presented by Abdul Saleeb in his lecture on Islam.[5] In this lecture, he outlines four theological issues in which Islam (and I would submit all other religions) differ with Christianity:

  • Their view of God
  • Their view of man
  • Their view of salvation
  • Their view of the Bible

These two paradigms intersect somewhat, not only by comparison but also by contrast. For instance, atheists by virtue of their name do not believe in God, and neither do numerous sects of Buddhism. Their view of God will shade how they view humanity’s problem, which affects their view of the solution, etc.

Finally, each chapter will conclude with how we can interact and interject the gospel into conversations which may arise with those who hold to these respective beliefs. Part of the nature of apologetics is not just knowing deviant and variant gospels, but also knowing the true gospel of Christ.

May God bless you in your quest!


[1]Bodie Hodge, The Authority Test, Part 1: The Christian’s Ultimate Authority. Accessed on 21 July 2010, available at http://www.answersingenesis.org/articles/aid/v3/n1/the-authority-test [on-line]; Internet.

[2]Greg Bahnsen, Evangelism and Apologetics. Accessed 21 July 2010, available at http://www.cmfnow.com/articles/PA013.htm [on-line]; Internet.

[3]Stephen Prothero, God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World—and Why Their Differences Matter (New York: HarperCollins, 2010), 4.

[4]Ibid., 3.

[5]R.C. Sproul and Abdul Saleeb, The Cross and the Crescent (CD) (Sanford, FL: Ligonier Ministries).

Why Are Preachers So Exhausted After Preaching?

Preaching on Sunday morning is, for me, the most exhilarating part of my calling!  I cannot wait to step into the pulpit at my church and deliver that which has been simmering in me for the past week (and, in essence, for my entire Christian experience!).  The prayer, the study, the compilation—ultimately coming to fruition in prayerful delivery, aiming to be clear and to put the groceries on the bottom shelf.

Sunday afternoons, however, are more exhausting than at any other time of the week.  I’m not in bad shape, mind you.  I exercise, eat well, and have plenty of energy for the task to which Christ called me.  So why do I feel exhausted?

Turns out I’m not alone!   Faithful pastors all over feel this way after preaching on Sunday.  Some outsiders may say that there is something unspiritual about the pastor who endures this.  However, this is not so by and large.

So why do most pastors and preachers feel so exhausted after preaching?

It’s Work!  It’s a labor of love, to be sure—but it’s still labor.  Studies have shown that the energy used for preaching a 30 minute sermon is the equivalent of an 8-hour work day.  Hours are spent the week prior in prayer, study, and more prayer and more study!   The main priority of a pastor’s ministry is preaching—so much of our energy is put into this endeavor that an adrenaline builds up!  The Spirit begins to work in the preacher as the preacher works out the Spirit’s message!   While the Spirit at times just brings the message, He also intends to give us the ‘want-to’ to mine out what God’s Word has to say from a specific passage. 

Passion!  Preachers work their salt are those who are passionate about Christ, the gospel, His Word, His church and the lost.  Paul told the Corinthian church that “the love of Christ compels me’ (2 Corinthians 5:14).  Preachers do not simply inform, their goal is to persuade to transform!  While God is sovereign over all things, He uses His Word and the preachers as His instrument—His sovereign means to His sovereign ends. 

Unforeseen Issues.  When one goes to the drive-thru at the bank, there is a vacuum tube that carries the container from the bank to your car.  Some pastors wish this were the case:  a vacuum tube from their office to the pulpit and back again.  But pastors are not just preachers, they are shepherds over sheep.  And part of their task is not just to deliver the Word at the church’s appointed gatherings—it’s to minister to them outside of those times as well.  With that is the probability that right before the sermon, or even right after the sermon, someone will bring up an problem or an issue (neutral or otherwise) that they urgently believe needs to be addressed right them.  This takes steam out of the preacher if he’s not careful.  While church members should be sensitive to the nature of preaching, preachers should also be sensitive to the needs of his congregation. 

A Distrust in God’s Sovereignty in Preaching.  Preachers become exhausted when they believe that the preaching is all about them: their skills, their preparation, their ability to turn a phrase, to engender the proper emotion in order to elicit their desired response, etc.  Preaching is not all about you!  It’s about the Spirit shaping the minister as the Spirit uses that minister to shape His message.  Preachers who trust in themselves will lose sleep if they didn’t get that one illustration in, that one phrase turned, or didn’t get the desired response.  Paul said that they planted and watered the seeds,  but God causes the growth.  Minister is not about us—it’s about God-called men calling out God’s message to God’s people and to God’s world.  He is the one who foreknows, predestines, calls, justifies, and glorifies in order to shape them into the fashion of His Son (Romans 8:29-30)!  God uses imperfect vessels to do His perfect will!  Trust Him over your own methods and means.

Any other reasons, preachers, why you tend to feel exhausted after preaching?

The Key Component to Exposition: Jesus as the Centerpiece of Scripture

In order to understand the priority Jesus placed on the Scriptures, the student must understand the priority the Scriptures put on Jesus: he is the centerpiece of God’s entire written revelation. In Matthew 5:17-18, Jesus brought out the true meaning of what God spoke through the Old Testament prophets. Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Jesus placed ultimate value on the primacy of Scripture, and on the intention of his ministry with regard to Scripture: Jesus Christ came to accomplish and to teach his disciples the entirety of what God put forth in the Old Testament. Following his statements of intent (Matt 5:17-18), Jesus taught on a number of Old Testament commands, and then crystallized them in a very alarming way. He gave teachings dealing with anger (5:21-26), lust (5:27-30), marriage and divorce (5:31-32), oaths (5:33-37), retaliation (5:38-42), and loving one’s enemies (5:43-48)—matters confused by the teaching of the Scribes. He gave the commandment or teaching, followed with, “But I say to you. . . .” Jesus gave a clear understanding of the intentions behind the command that God gave and thus demonstrated clearly his authority in regards to the Law. The Pharisees believed they were justified before God based on their external righteousness, believing that the way to be righteous before God is exclusively behavioral. Yet Jesus obliterated this false understanding of salvation when he addressed their internal rebellious condition.

Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt 5:19-20)

The word ‘righteousness’ is defined as “integrity, virtue, purity of life, uprightness, correctness in thinking, feeling, and acting.”[1] Yet, this word in a broader sense also means “the condition acceptable to God.”[2] The Pharisees were seen as righteous, in that they taught (and supposedly demonstrated) that obtaining God’s approval could only be found through strict, external obedience to the Law. Yet, Jesus informed his listeners that they must surpass the Pharisees’ type of righteousness. The kingdom message he preached was that he came to fulfill the Scriptures that pointed to an internal righteousness (Matt 5:19-20)—a righteousness supplied by Christ and his atoning work on the cross. Edmund Clowney elaborates on this understanding of righteousness:

Christ does not just bear the punishment we deserve. He also keeps the law in our place. Christ, our sin-bearer, gives to us the perfect robe of His righteousness. “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21, NIV). . . . What we receive in Christ is His righteousness; we are adopted into perfect sonship of the second Adam and the true Israel.[3]

How would a superior level of righteousness be possible if they could not attain even the level of the Pharisees’ righteousness? If Jesus came to preach the Good News, where is this Good News found?

Dennis E. Johnson explains how this portion of the Sermon on the Mount is indeed good news in the context of the cross.

Where is the good news [in the Sermon on the Mount]? The answer must be that the Sermon on the Mount can be read as good news only in the context of the whole story that Matthew has to tell, for in this larger context we see that Jesus came to “fulfill” the Law and the Prophets (5:17) not only in his filling out the implications of God’s ancient law but also in the beloved Son’s “fulfilling all righteousness” by identifying with sinners in a baptism of repentance (3:15), in his humility as the Servant (12:17-21) and meek entrance into Jerusalem (21:4-5), and preeminently in his sacrifice for sinners (20:28; 26:28). In the context of the cross, Jesus’ sermon is good news indeed; apart from it, Jesus’ revelation of the law’s depth and intensity drives us to despair.[4]

Johnson notes that the message of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection liberates those who have ears to hear. Mark 1:14-15 says, “Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” In Luke 4:42-45, Jesus told the people, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose” (Luke 4:43).

Greg Heisler offers some needed perspective to help us understand the redemptive work of Christ in preaching from both Old and New Testaments:

Christological preaching happens when we build the theological component of our message upon one significant question: How does this text testify to the person and work of Jesus Christ? Whether preaching from the Old Testament or in the New Testament, we should constantly seek to understand how Christ’s death, burial and resurrection fulfill the redemptive focus of the text that we are preaching.[5]

Heisler argues that expositional preaching is Christocentric preaching. Christ came to “fulfill all righteousness” (Matt 3:15) and is thus the true fulfillment of the Law and Prophets (Matt 3:15; 5:17-18). In light of this understanding, expositional preaching entails preaching not just the content of the Law and the Prophets, but on the Christ and how the Father brought him along to fulfill them as well. With this perspective, we may preach expositionally with a Christ-centered, redemptive focus from every genre of Scripture.


[1]Joseph Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 1996), quoted in BibleWorks. 7.0.012. [CD-ROM] (Norfolk, VA: Bibleworks, 2006).

[2]Ibid.

[3]Edmund P. Clowney, The Unfolding Mystery (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 1988), 104-05.

[4]Dennis E. Johnson, Him We Proclaim (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2008), 169. Johnson is a disciple of Edmund Clowney, who holds to a “Christ-centered, redemptive-historical” reading of Scripture.

[5]Greg Heisler, Spirit-Led Preaching (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2007), 63-64.

Through Types and Shadows: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

Many Christians struggle with the unity of the Scriptures, especially in the issue of Christ in the OT.  Yet, passages such as Colossians 2:16-17 show the reader the connection between the festivals, laws, and rituals of the OT with Christ: “Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.”  The apostle Paul helps the believer unlock the key to understanding the OT: through types and shadows, these covenants, laws, festivals, rituals, and prophecies all hearken to their ultimate fulfillment found in Christ. 

The writer of Hebrews alludes to this notion as well.  After explaining the importance of Melchizedek and how Christ is from his priestly line (Hebrews 7), the writer explains that a high priests now exists who is in the true tabernacle in heaven, having offered the proper sacrifice of himself for the remission of sins.  He writes, “They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things” (Hebrews 8:5a).  The “they” refers to the high priest, the tabernacle, the gifts, the sacrifices and promises revealed and implemented under the Old Covenant.  All of these are a copy and shadow of the things in heaven, made manifest here on earth.  The Old Covenant, while flawed (Hebrews 8:7), hearkened forward to a New Covenant, a better covenant, where the laws and promises would be written on the hearts of the believers, and where God would dwell not in the Holy of Holies, but in the temple of one’s heart (Hebrews 8:9-12; cf. Jeremiah 31:31-34). 

While many believers read their Bibles with a sharp demarcation between the OT and the NT, in essence reading the Scriptures ‘horizontally’ (in regards to their viewing of the Book itself), Christians must read the Bible ‘vertically,’ that is, read the Scriptures in seeing Christ all through Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  The apostle Paul and the writer of Hebrews, among other places in Scripture, encourage believers to see the reason for the “types and shadows” of the rituals and laws in the OT that point the believer to see all of Scripture as a Christian book.

Fred Malone describes covenantal theological interpreters as those who “understand the quotations of the OT prophecies as biblically fulfilled literally in the NT if there is a historical correspondence and a heightened fulfillment.[1]  Whereas dispensationalists require an exact fulfillment of certain prophecies (such as that of the Temple) either in this age or in a millennial age to come, covenantalists see the Temple and sacrifices being fulfilled in Christ rather than in another physical building (which will be discussed below).  Understanding typology correctly in interpreting the Scriptures from OT prophecy to NT fulfillment is critical in understanding the redemptive narrative and in preaching Christ from the OT.

The purpose of this paper is to encourage those who preach from the OT to recognize the fulfillment Christ provided in the types and shadows found in that OT and to preach the OT as a Christian book.  The apostle Paul provides a template by which this issue may be examined.  In Romans 9:4-5, he wrote, “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.  To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever.  Amen.”   Each of these areas serves as specific landmarks of the Old Covenant, but also as windows by which one may look into the fulfillment in the New Covenant in Christ.

The Adoption
When Moses returned to Egypt after his encounter with Yahweh in the burning bush, He instructed Moses to perform all the miracles, then say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the LORD, Israel is my firstborn son” (Exodus 4:22).  In Jeremiah 31:9, God tells all who will listen that “I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.”  In these key passages, God reminds the people of Israel that He adopted them “not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers” (Deuteronomy 7:7-8a). 

This relationship serves as a foreshadowing of how the Father would adopt those faithful in the New Covenant.  God the Son would be “born of a woman, born under the Law to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).  God did not redeem us in the New Covenant because of our righteousness but because of His love bestowed on us through the Covenant of Redemption, actualized in the Covenant of Grace imparted here and now.  We are “begotten sons” because we are in Christ, the begotten Son (Psalm 2:7; John 3:16). 

The Glory

Paul continues in that in the Israelites, “Theirs is … the glory.”  The glory of what?  The glory of the divine presence of God manifested only to His people in the Holy of Holies in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple.  As the Israelites erected the Tabernacle, Exodus 40:34 says, “Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.”  The presence of the Lord was found in the Ark of the Covenant, which would be carried into battle denoting how God would go before His people(Numbers 14:44; 1 Samuel 4); and if capture, how God would terrorize the enemies (1 Samuel 5:8-12).  In the ark contained the tablets containing the Ten Commandments, with the Book of the Law by its side (Deuteronomy 31).   When the ark was captured by the Philistines, Phinehas’s wife gave birth when she heard of this news and named him “Ichabod,” for “The glory has departed from Israel.”  The glory of God in each of these cases represented the presence of God among His people.

Yet, even with this glory found in the OT, a barrier remained.  In reference to the Exodus 40:31 passage above, the following verses report that Moses nor none of Israel could enter into the Tent of Meeting.  To see the unvarnished, unhindered glory of God would mean death, unless by God’s grace you were allowed to live (Exodus 33:20).  The book of Hebrews brings to memory that “our God is a consuming fire” (Hebrews 12:29).       

The glory is a type and shadow of the Christ that was to come.  John 1:14-18 says:

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side,he has made him known.

The dwelling among us here on earth of the Word (Christ) is the same type of word in the Greek from where we translate ‘tabernacling.’  The connection between the dwelling/tabernacling and that of seeing His glory hearkens back to the OT connection of the Tabernacle and the glory of God amongst His people.

The Covenants

The Israelites were also given the covenants (9:4).  What is a covenant?  Fred Malone defines a covenant as “a solemn arrangement divinely imposed, which places binding obligations upon the recipients.”[2]  O. Palmer Robertson offers an even more concise definition:  “A covenant is a bond in blood sovereignly administered.”[3]  He continues:  “When God enters into a covenantal relationship with men, he sovereignly institutes a life-and-death bond.  A covenant is a bond in blood, or a bond of life-and-death, sovereignly administered.”[4]  Meredith Kline offers a more detailed definition:

[A] berith (Hebrew word for covenant) is a legal kind of arrangement, a formal disposition of a binding nature. At the heart of a berith is an act of commitment and the customary oath‐form of this commitment reveals the religious nature of the transaction.  The berith arrangement is no mere secular contract but rather belongs to the sacred sphere of divine witness and enforcement. The kind of legal disposition called berith consists then in a divinely sanctioned commitment. In the case of divine—human covenants the divine sanctioning is entailed in God’s participation either as the one who himself makes the commitment or as the divine witness of the human commitment made in his name and presence.[5]

In the context of Romans 9, the two covenants that govern what is known as covenant theology are the Covenant of Redemption (the sovereign work of from the counsels of heaven from all eternity) and the Covenant of Grace (the application of the Covenant of Redemption in here on earth).  These covenants grant the paradigm in which to look at the other covenants.  In fact, the other covenant God established was that back in the Garden of Eden, the Covenant of Works, summed up in the phrase, “Do this and live.”  Yet, the various covenants revealed in Scripture progressively reveal the Covenant of Grace among His people.  These covenants are:

The Covenant of Adam: God promised life to Adam should he obey.  In Genesis 2:15-17, we read:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it.  And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:15-17, emphasis mine). 

Here we see the Covenant of Works: should Adam obey, he will live.  Should he disobey, he will “surely die.”  When Adam and Eve trusted the word of Satan over the command of their Creator, the curse of death fell on them—a curse that still plagues the heart of man to this day. 

The apostle Paul tells us that Christ is the Second Adam, recognizing the typology:  “Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come” (Romans 5:14).  Through the Covenant of Works, Adam brought death into the heart of mankind.  Christ came to complete and fulfill that Covenant of Works for those in Adam whom God chose, and to reverse the curse and bring justification to many (Romans 5:15-21). 

The Noahic Covenant:  Where the earth was destroyed due to sin so that the covenant of redemption mind move forward—sealed with the sign of the rainbow.  When Noah offered the offering after the flood had subsided, the Lord, after smelling the “pleasing aroma… said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.  Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done’” (Genesis 8:21).  Then in Genesis 9, he reinforces and fleshes out the nature of this covenant:  “I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of the flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth . . .  I have set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Genesis 9:11, 13).  This cove

The Abrahamic Covenant.  In Genesis 12:1-3, Abraham would be the one through whom all nations would be blessed.  The seed promised to Abraham was not Isaac, but was a type of Isaac who was a child of promise—the Messiah (Galatians 3:16).  The circumcision was God’s way of carving out a line that would, ultimately, come in Christ.  Baptism therefore is not the fulfillment of circumcision, but divine regeneration (Romans 2:28-29).  The children of Abraham are not Jews, but only those who are born of God and have saving faith in Christ. 

The Mosaic Covenant.   God gave His law to Moses on Mount Sinai as they travelled toward the Promised Land.  The law came as a moral, civil, and ceremonial law to govern the people of Israel as a set-apart society, chosen by God.  This helped deter the influence of the nations that sought and often did influence them in ungodly ways.  Galatians 3:23-25 shows that the law is a guardian and a tutor to show us our sin and bring us to Christ—but the Law as unable to save, only to show the extent of our sin and our need of being clothed in His righteousness rather than counting on ours (Romans 3:1-26).  The Ten Commandments (moral law) still applies and is still binding, while the rituals and ceremonies are types and shadows finding their fulfillment in the substance which is Christ (Colossians 2:16-17). 

The Davidic Covenant.   God promised that there would always be one to sit on this kingly throne (2 Samuel 7:11-16).  Solomon, though he would be the son who would build the temple in David’s stead, would not nor could not serve in this capacity as God intended, for this would be an “eternal throne.”  Christ fulfills this Davidic, kingly line (Psalm 110; Acts 2:29-36).  In fact, the genealogies in Matthew 1:1-17 and Luke 3:23-38 served to demonstrate how both Joseph and Mary descended from the kingly line of David (along with Abraham).  Thus, in both the biological (in Mary’s case) and adoptive (Joseph’s), God would fulfill His prophecy from 2 Samuel 7:11-16 from all angles. 

The Giving of the Law

As alluded to above, God gave Moses His law as the people of Israel were led by God from Egypt toward their 40-year journey to the Promised Land.    In Deuteronomy 4:9-14, Moses taught God’s people the reason for Him giving the law through His servant: so they would not “forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life” (4:9).  These actions and commandments that Yahweh gave to His people were to be remembered, obeyed, and made know “to your children and your children’s children” (4:9).  God knew the heart of His people and how they were prone to wander.  The law served as a guardian for their hearts as they entered into the Promised Land, seeking to guard them from the influence of the pagan nations they were about to run out. 

The Worship

In this sense, we understand that this worship is that of the Temple worship (that is, the worship of God that took place in the Temple).  God gave Solomon the privilege of building the Temple that served as a witness to the nations (and to the people of Israel) of God’s abiding presence among His chosen people.  God gave Solomon exact details by which to build the Temple, each having a certain area significance in God’s redemptive narrative.  Not everyone could approach God from the same distance.  The Jews could come into the Inner Court, the Gentiles had a court further away, the Women had a court of their own—but only the circumcised, male Jews could approach the closest in order to worship. 

When preaching Christ from the OT, the preacher again may hearken back to John 1:14-18, where the “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14-15).  Christ is the Cornerstone (Psalm 118:22; cf. 1 Peter 2:7-8), with the apostles and prophets serving as the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:19-22).  Those who have surrendered to Christ alone for their salvation are the living stones chosen by God, building that spiritual house—kept in line by the cornerstone, Jesus Christ (1 Peter 2:4-10).  God is present among His people through Christ living in their Temple which houses the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:16-20), using us to build a spiritual house.  Christ is a fulfillment of the Temple—where the Spirit resides, and where His body, the church, serves as a witness to the surrounding nations of God’s justice and mercy among His people and the world He created. 

The Promises

The apostle Paul next refers to the promises.  To which promises is the apostle Paul referring?  He refers to the promises of the coming Messiah.  The gospel of Matthew and the letter to the Hebrews serve the church well in understanding these promises.  In Matthew, we see over 60 promises in regards to the Messiah fulfilled by Christ’s coming.  In just the first two chapters, the Spirit inspires Matthew to show the fulfillment of Christ being born of a virgin (Matt 1:22-23; Isaiah 7:14), being born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:6; Micah 5:2), being brought back from Egypt after his flight from Herod (Matthew 2:15; Hosea 11:1), and Herod’s infanticide (Matthew 2:18; Jeremiah 31:35).  This sets the table for Matthew’s gospel to the Jews to show that this child that was born in that manger and who grew up among them was a fulfillment of the very Scriptures to which they looked for hope. 

The Christ, Who is God over All, Blessed Forever

As mentioned above when dealing with the Davidic Covenant, one sees clearly from Scripture that from the line of Abraham and David came the Christ.  This Christ is the second person of the Trinity who became a man.  “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him” (John 1:11).  Who were his own people?  They were none other than the biological children of Abraham.  John Calvin insightfully notes, “If he honoured the whole human race when he connected himself with it by sharing our nature, much more did he honour the Jews, with whom he desired to have a close bond of affinity.”[6]  Yet, they rejected him.  Why? 

But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring (Romans 9:6-8).

The people of Israel, along with everyone else, are not saved by their race—they are saved by God’s grace extended through His sovereign work in Christ.  Isaac came as a result of a promise—and thus he is a type and shadow of Christ, who also came by a plethora of promises as God unfurled His redemptive work.  The NT displays that people are saved by the promise of the New Covenant rather than the national pedigree under the Old.  No wonder the apostle Paul possessed “great sorrow and unceasing anguish” in his heart (Romans 9:2).  His brothers, to whom he belonged in the flesh, believed they were rescued by a way that could never rescue.  

Pastoral Application

In the various Southern Baptist contexts in which I have served over the past twenty years, I am passionate about showing the unity of the Scriptures and how Christ is found in all points of Scripture.  Many of the parishioners in the various churches in which I have served are dispensationalists, even if they do not recognize the term.  For many, the NT is simply a parenthetical work between His work in the Old Covenant and in the seven-year tribulation and millennial age to come.  In this view, the OT and NT are disconnected more than they should be.  The fulfillment of the sacrifices and Temple, for example, are often relegated to the coming millennial age. 

I would borrow a phrase from the late W.A. Criswell (1909-2002) that there is a “scarlet thread through the Bible” that runs from Genesis to Revelation.  Paul’s epistles, especially the book of Galatians, serves the church in showing the unity of the Scriptures and how so many of the people, events, rituals, and laws foreshadowed Christ and His salvific work.[7]  This propels the motivation of the preacher to look back to the OT passages referenced in the NT, as well as look forward from the OT to show how Christ fulfills the law and other rituals and events in the NT.  St. Augustine gives the proper principle, “The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed.” 

By repeatedly and consistently demonstrating the unity of Scriptures from a covenant theology aspect in my pulpit ministry, and by preaching from all of Scripture as a Christian book—and, as a result, preaching Christ from all of Scripture—the saints will hopefully see the point of all aspects of the OT that, at first glance, seem unimportant to their Christian walk.  Rather than ignoring these areas of Scripture because they do not seem to impact them directly or are seen as ‘old,’ they will begin to see all of Scripture as an unveiling of God’s redemptive narrative coming to full fruition in His time. 


[1] Fred Malone, Baptist of Disciples Alone: A Covenantal Argument for Credobaptism vs. Paedobaptism (Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press, 2008), 32.

[2]Ibid., 1.  

[3]O. Palmer Robertson, The Christ of the Covenants (Phillipsburg, NJ: Presbyterian & Reformed Publishing Co., 1980), 4

[4]Ibid., 4.  

[5]Meredith Kline, Kingdom Prologue (Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2006), 1‐2.

[6]John Calvin, The Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Oliver & Boyd, 1540), 195.  Quoted in John Stott, Romans: God’s Good News for the World (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 265.

[7]W.A. Criswell, The Scarlet Thread of Redemption.  Accessed 19 December 2012.  Available at http://www.gather.com/viewArticle.action?articleId=281474977607138 [on-line]; Internet.